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Pat and Rachel McCreary have flown under the radar with a project that’s been a decade in the making.
But over the past few years, as they’ve worked to transform the corner of 19th and Chestnut Streets into a welcoming place, their project has become a highlight in Erie’s Little Italy neighborhood.
Where Erie Bronze and Aluminum and then McCreary Roofing once called home, it now is The storea 23,000-square-foot, mixed-use creative building housing several small businesses.
After McCreary Roofing moved to 1404 East Ave. Once moved, owners Pat and Rachel McCreary kept the industrial site in hopes of finding a new purpose for it.
“We didn’t want this place to be a rundown building, we didn’t want it to go to someone who didn’t care,” said Rachel McCreary, 37. “We wanted to show by example that once you get there, you can’t offers high-quality things, also gets good tenants and people who want to make a difference here.”
A labor of love
Piece by piece, McCreary’s remodeled The Shop, zoning and decluttering to make room for others who saw potential in what the space had to offer.
“A lot (of the building) was already in place and ready for use, it just needed a little tidying up and making it presentable,” said Pat McCreary, 40. “The big things were sprinkler upgrades, electrical upgrades, siding stuff.”
In addition to running The Shop, Pat McCreary works for the family business McCreary Roofing. Working at the commercial roofing business gives Pat McCreary the upper hand when it comes to fixing The Shop. Any additional materials from Jobs — like old skylights from Girard High School and green fences surrounding Erie SeaWolves games — that would otherwise be thrown away, Pat McCreary would find ways to reuse them in the 19th and Chestnut.
As Pat and Rachel McCreary began to breathe more life into The Shop, they created multiple bays, or sub-areas, within the building for tenants to rent. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the couple has stuck to their plans for the building.
“It really got you questioning events and holding public gatherings, but at the end of the day we still have an old building and we have yet to remodel it, so it hasn’t changed our end goal or purpose,” Pat said McCreary.
The shop currently houses Menaj Erie Studioan advertising agency specializing in video production; Collective states of naturethat sells handmade national park posters and artwork; BOTH Studios, a custom woodworking company specializing in large tables; and Copper Cart Antiquesselling mid-century primitive, industrial and modern antiques.
“We love all of our tenants and businesses,” said Rachel McCreary. “Everyone is very reserved and they are creative people.”
And there’s room for more.
Aside from the main bay, which serves as the common room for the building, Pat and Rachel McCreary have prepared three other bays for future renters. The McCreary’s also offer a degree of creative freedom when it comes to a tenant’s specific space.
“Someone might say, ‘I want a cute storefront,’ and we might say, ‘Okay, we can use that space, build a glass wall and open it up,'” said Rachel McCreary.
The McCreary hopes to attract creative tenants who want to build on The Shop and bring something new to the building.
“There are other places in the city that host small businesses, but you’re limited to traditional offices and we’re not,” said Rachel McCreary. “So we’re geared towards people who want space.”
Two winters ago, Pat and Rachel McCreary tore down a section at the back of the building to make way for an indoor-outdoor patio, a work in progress. It will be linked to McCreary’s side project, which will be a greenhouse cafe just for her and her tenants.
“We know there are cool spaces here and we want to highlight them,” said Rachel McCreary.
A place for artists
Over the years, The Shop has not only served as a home for its tenants, but also for various art galleries and markets, events that Pat and Rachel McCreary wish to refrain from as The Shop continues to grow.
“We’re really focused on completing the building and filling it,” said Rachel McCreary. “We don’t just need it as an event venue, we want this to be a place where people come to work every day, not just one day for a market.
“So we are focused on winning new business opportunities for Little Italy. At the end of the day, we’re just two people and we want everyone to manage everything in their space.”
BOTH Studios owner Brad Triana has no problem managing his own space.
As the longest tenant of The Shop, Triana has transformed his part of the building into an environment that suits his woodworking needs.
“When I moved in, it was in a very different state, just a little rough around the edges,” he said. “But there’s more space, high ceilings and it’s quiet. There aren’t many decent industrial sites like this left in the city and I was just lucky.”
Triana thought he would share his happiness with his good friends from MenajErie Studios, who were looking for a new space after their lease at the Renaissance Center expired in late 2020.
“We wanted an open, industrial blank slate where we could do whatever we wanted,” said Jessica Taylor, co-owner of MenajErie. “Just having a bigger studio has opened up a lot of opportunities, like remodeling sets and being able to do much bigger projects.”
For Stephanie and Joe Hunt, the opportunities within the building weren’t the only reasons they moved their business, Copper Carriage Antiques, to The Shop.
“Before Joe and I came here, we were down at the mall in Edinboro,” Stephanie Hunt said. “We’ve always done smaller (antique) shows, and when we came here I thought I’d love the opportunity for other people who don’t have their own space to come and settle in.”
For Stephanie Hunt, the space inside and outside of The Shop allows Copper Carriage to “give back to the community and tell people about this area because it’s a bit off the beaten track”.
Being off the beaten track was exactly what Curtis Waidley, owner of Natural States Collective and The Shop’s newest tenant, was looking for.
“I’ve been looking for an apartment of my own for about five years, and when I met Rachel and started looking around, I fell in love immediately,” Waidley said. “I like the idea that it’s a repurposed building, especially as an artist. It’s also a great community here. Even in the short time I’ve been here, everyone has been super nice. I don’t think I would go anywhere else I want to be.”